Ayyankali Jayanti in Kerala Date in the current year: August 28, 2024

Ayyankali Jayanti in Kerala Ayyankali Jayanti is an official holiday in the Indian state of Kerala, celebrated annually on August 28. It is the birthday of Mahatma Ayyaankali, a famous social reformer who fought for the rights of untouchables in the princely state of Travancore.

Mahatma Ayyankali was born on August 28, 1863 in the princely state of Travancore, which covered parts of modern-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. His parents belong to the Pulayar community, which was considered untouchable in the Indian caste system. They were relatively well-off due to owing some land, but they were still untouchables.

The caste system in the Kerala region was characterized by a particularly severe social division compared to the rest of India. The Pulayars had almost zero rights and suffered from discrimination and oppression from members of the higher castes, particularly the Nair. A lot of Pulayars in Travancore were practically slaves.

Ayyankali became outraged by social injustice at a young age and started to protest with like-minded young people from the Pulayar community. In 1893, he rode on a road in an ox cart he had purchased himself, dressed in clothes traditionally associated with the powerful Nair caste. Both purchasing a cart and traveling a road were acts of rebellion, since the Pulayars weren’t allowed to do either.

Inspired by Ayyankali’s example, more and more Pulayars began to protest. After violent protests that became known as Chaliyar riots, they were granted the right to travel most roads in Travancore, except for those leading to Hindu temples. This right was given to untouchables in 1900.

Ayyankali, who was illiterate, also sought to give all children access to education regardless of their caste. The only schools where Pulayars could receive education at the time were missionary schools. However, in order to attend they had to convert to Christianity and contribute to the cost of education.

Although the government of Travancore ordered state schools to admit untouchable students in 1907, local officials found ways not to enforce this policy. To change this, Ayyankali secured government support and founded the Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham, an organization that fought to improve access to education and raised funds to set up schools for Pulayars run by Pulayars. It was supported by both Hindus and Christians.

When Ayyankali attempted to enroll a Pulayar girl in a state school in the village of Ooruttambalam, upper castes retaliated by burning down the school building. In response, Pulayan agricultural workers in the region went on a strike, refusing to work in the fields that belonged to people from upper castes until the government provided universal access to education. It may have been the first strike action in Kerala.

Mahatma Ayyankali is regarded as one of the most influential social reformers in Kerala, so his birthday was declared a state holiday. On August 28, Kerala officials and Ayyankali’s descendants participate in a ceremony in honor of Ayyankali held at his monument in Thiruvananthapuram.

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